National transport spokesperson Chris Bishop and Nelson MP Nick Smith announce the party's transport plan for the city. Photo: Charles Anderson.

We’ll build the link, say Nats


National is promising to spend more than $200 million to build the Southern Link and convert Rocks Rd into a boulevard for walking and cycling if it wins the next election.

National’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop and MP for Nelson Nick Smith say that the two projects are the centrepiece for the party’s transport package for the region, which also features three new passing lanes on the route between Nelson and Blenheim.

“We are serious about delivering better infrastructure for New Zealanders, particularly Nelson residents who have faced worsening congestion and increased fuel taxes without any significant investment under the current government,” Chris says.

Nick says the Inland Route, also known as the Southern Link, is the only practical way Nelson’s waterfront can be enhanced and a Rocks Road boulevard redeveloped for walking and cycling.

He says Nelson voters have a distinct transport choice between Labour’s proposal of using clearways or National’s commitment to the Inland Route and a waterfront boulevard.

He says National will immediately proceed with detailed design on the Inland Route in consultation with the affected communities like Victory.

“We want a design that includes cycleways, and which protects and enhances the Victory neighbourhood.”

They also plan to include three new passing lanes between Nelson and Blenheim and do blanket speed reductions to 80 kmh.

Meanwhile, Nelsonians have had their say on Nelson’s transport issues, with the majority believing that the best way to solve the problem is by adding priority lanes on Waimea/ Rutherford and SH6 Rocks Rd.

Waka Kotahi NZTA have published the results from the Nelson Future Access consultation, which took place in July.

Project manager Rhys Palmer presented them to Nelson City Council’s regional transport committee meeting on Monday.

NZTA reached out to the community to gain insight on three potential long-term packages, which included the priority lanes as well as the widening of the coastal state highway corridor and building a new inland route.

“What we’re seeing in the results is that there is strong support for both the priority lanes and inland route package with very minor support for the coastal corridor widening. With the priority lanes, there’s a higher percentage than the inland route,” said Rhys.

When asked which package would be the best at solving Nelson’s transport issues, 49 per cent of respondents ranked the priority lanes first, followed by 38 per cent for the inland route, seven percent for the coastal corridor widening and six per cent for short term measures only.

61 per cent also believed the priority lanes would best respond to reducing carbon emissions. The option also came out on top for every other question asked.

“The key community insight that we gained, that we could probably already predict, was there is some fairy largely entrenched views in the community around certain options and that we saw both support for two options and not a third.”

Rhys said the level of community interest and the amount of feedback received across a variety of platforms was “significant”.

“We were very pleased with the amount of engagement we had through all the different mediums.”

They received 1314 online survey responses, 502 paper responses and 40 feedback emails.

The project team are now developing the draft proposal, based on the technical assessments and engagement feedback. This will most likely be a combination of both short-term and long-term interventions.

Presentation of the draft proposal will be at a council meeting on 12 November, ahead of consulting with the public.

The business case completion is scheduled to be brought to council in February 2021 and the NZTA board in March 2021.